onsdag den 16. juni 2010

World Cup 2010 Best of round 1: First team

No the list isn't dead but any hope of finishing it before the World Cup obviously is...

Right now I'm living and breathing the World Cup 24/7 so realistically I don't know how likely new list entries will indeed be. Probably not all that likely to be honest.

I might write something about the World Cup though, but already do plenty on forums or blogs...

But what I will and can do (right now) with every country having been in action is put down my 1st round of fixtures all star team. A first and a second team of the players and coaches I think have been performing the best.

I'll compile these teams for each round of fixtures right till the very finish with the final itself and the 3rd place game.

By then of course there won't be many performers left to choose from but hopefully at the end, if nothing else just by looking at who has the most Long throwins all star entries, we'll have a very good idea of who (according to me!) the real stars have been this World Cup.

It also goes without saying that the accompanying writeups will be a nice excuse to put some thoughts down on both players, teams and matches that have been played.



Vincent Enyeama - Nigeria

A number of keepers made bad errors these opening matches. Enyeama made none and then quite simply, and quite clearly I think, was the keeper with the highest number of spectacular and difficult saves to keep his team in a match were they were under a lot of pressure.

The Nigeria team recently taken over by longterm Sweden national coach Lars Lagerbeck didn't really yet look like one of the rigid 4-4-2 Sweden teams. One those that put a stop to Bielsa's exciting 2002 Argentina team. Something for which Lagerbeck rightly feels proud.

This however was a far cry from that and there were plenty of holes between the Nigerian defensive lines to exploit for the Argentinian attackers, and more than anything it was down to Enyeama that Nigeria stayed alive in the match right until the very end.

Unfortunately for Nigeria though that didn't result in them getting a point, but that's no fault of Enyema who was outstanding.


Phillipp Lahm - Germany

Contrary to the right-back position I had enough trouble finding excellent left-back candidates, that I'm going to cheat and put the best right-back in the first round, on the left instead.

On that note I've always felt Lahm was more excellent on the left anyway.

I'm not sure why exactly but it could be that I don't really see Lahm as the type of fullback who is relying on being dynamic or athletic limiting himself almost to the type of play where the great fullback-life objective is to deliver crosses into the box from his natural right side, not that there is anything wrong with that, but Lahm is more than that.

I like him more getting lots of touches, including cutting inside more central, and with his excellent technique and intelligence be very involved in possession. Then good things happen.

That can happen on the right as well of course but I just feel he is more of a standard fullback out there, while on the left his craftsmanship makes him unique.

With all that being said though, playing on the right he definitely had a very good start to this World Cup.

He defended with his usual class (when it comes to defending actually I do think it's safe to say he is more comfortable on the right) and in true Lahm style he was consistently able to occupy the right-midfield and there, like I just talked about what I love from on the left, with skills and intelligence make great (or simply very constructive) contributions whenever Germany were in possession.


Antolin Alcarez - Paraguay

Italy didn't really have trouble getting the ball in and around Paraguay's box area in the sides 1-1 draw and I thought clearly won the midfield battle in front of a defensive line pushing high up.

Where they didn't win however, despite wide forwards moving central to increase pressure further, were the individual matchups against the Paraguay defenders.

Alcarez in particular was good and while scoring a good goal, which he also did, isn't a qualification itself, it certainly doesn't hurt!


Isaac Vorsah - Ghana

In Ghana's match against Serbia he completely matched giant opposing striker Zigic in strength and outplayed him in all other areas, taking completely out of Serbia's game what playing with two strikers was perhaps the only getaway for their outnumbered - under pressure midfield.

From early on it was apparent that feeding Zigic with longer passes was going to get them nowhere and instead Zigic was forced on an uncomfortable mission seeking passes further back in midfield, away from where his true strengths are, trying to help out his midfield in different ways.
Predictable to no avail though and Ghana could control most of the match. When Antic finally acted and brought on Lazovic a player providing different movement than big Zigic and potentially able to help out the outgunned midfield, it proved too late with a red card soon after and then Ghana scoring with Serbia not able to come back.

All in all then a clear effect on winning the game by a centreback. I like it.


Maicon - Brazil

Many good candidates here and I'm gonna mention them when I get to the 2nd. team.

Lahm was probably the best but like I said I'm cheating and placing him on the left, which then leaves Maicon as the right-back prime candidate.

There really isn't a more dominating right-back in world football and after a slow start to the season he has been back to his best for a while now, marauding up and down the right wing, with not least power, but good skills as well.

In a largely uninspired Brazilian performance against a North Korea team showing exemplary team work it was from Maicon's qualities that Brazil were at their most dangerous throughout and eventually where they broke the deadlock as well through an extraordinary goal.

I have a feeling this won't be his last appearance.


Sebastian Schweinsteiger - Germany

The versatile midfielder has played a new deeper central role all season and with Ballack missing out on injury it was "Schweini's" time to take control.

In midfield for Bayern he has helped control games all season and predictably enough Australia were not the team who was going to put a stop to it.

Hard working, disciplined combined with decent skills from his attacking midfielder background and then that very good range of passing means this probably won't be Schweinsteiger's last appearance either.


Ji Sung Park - South Korea :

Fantastic trademark two-way performance. Park controlled central midfield outworking and outplaying any nearby Greeks and then in his usual relentless style managed to contribute just about everywhere else both attacking and defending. Can't ask for more and don't need to.

Attacking midfielder:

Mesut Özil - Germany

Already a star in the Bundesliga and just like that, one World Cup match performance doing what he usually does, and now a star everywhere!

Supremely gifted playmaker who creates and scores goals.


Alexis Sanchez - Chile

He did all the things I was hoping to see for Chile and with a striker presence around him which was lacking in Chile's first game, unfortunately Suazo was out injured, I think Sanchez can be even better.

Like I said in the profile of him in that "2oo best players in the world entry, this is a cannonball of a player. Very explosive and skilled making him a persistent danger in Chile's dynamic attacking game.

He is also very hard working and therfore also a real defensive asset in Bielsa's high pressing game where he'll often win the ball back quickly.


Lukas Podolski - Germany

As always he is coming of yet another terrible club season but as soon as he puts on the Nationalmannschaft jersey he becomes great. Go figure!

No I don't really think it's some strange psychological effect. Overall he is just a great fit for the way Löw wants to play and many of the players surrounding him. Not least Klose of course.
Though that doesn't explain then, as I remember it anyway, that when they were together at Bayern, Podolski still wasn't able to perform.

So yeah, maybe after all this born Pole is just a great German patriot saving himself for national duty!


Lionel Messi - Argentina

This was Messi's best performance in an Argentina shirt for a long time.

Probably the best ever for Maradona, by some distance, and while it may not have been anything extraordinary by Messi's own godly standards, I think it's fair to reward him for finally getting over that very frustrating hurdle.

With two other forwards in the Argentina lineup (both Higuain and Tevez) there were finally somewhat similar conditions to Barcelona with people around Messi making runs, being threats, being dynamic with their movement, creating space so that Messi himself could work himself into positions where he was fronting the goal.
Messi consistently with his back to the goal is just something that should make everyone who loves football sad and it seems finally Maradona (or Bilardo) had seen enough.

Now unlike at Barca there isn't a Xavi to find him like that almost anywhere no matter where he is, in comparison Argentina's passing game is much slower (thank you Veron), so sometimes he had to come quite deep before he would get it. The truly amazing thing though was that almost where ever he would receive the ball, just as long as he was fronting the goal, with skill and pace, he was able to create a dangerous situation for himself or someone else. Time and time again. From out wide or some way back central, it somehow never failed. No one else in the world could have done that. He has to be on the team.


Ottmar Hitzfeld - Switzerland

We just saw Switzerland pull of a great upset by beating Spain. I don't really know if what we saw were true defensive greatness or just the day where everything went well for the Swiss and the final touch never for Spain.

No matter what though, it was a very good defensive performance and no doubt organized by the veteran master on the sidelines.

Stopping the World Cup favorites who have gone from victory to victory and doing it with exactly the same tactics that so many have tried yet in the end failed with, IS an achievement. No matter what.
Therefore it just has to be Hitzfeld then, who steals the 1st team coach spot on the last day.

I'll post the perhaps more interesting 2nd team tomorrow.

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